Latest 2018 BML2 Project Publication

Design2158 What BML2 will do for

Kent and Tunbridge wells

The 14pp report can be downloaded for viewing and printing by clicking on the image. Please circulate to friends and colleagues and if appropriate, to local Tunbridge Wells and Kent councillors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DfT says “Innovative and exciting” BML2 would need ‘Major Project’ funding

 

Centaur

 

A fresh approach, renewed vigour and innovation are given as reasons for David Cameron’s reshuffle whereupon Transport Secretary Justine Greening and Rail Minister Theresa Villiers have been replaced by Patrick McLoughlin and Simon Burns respectively.


But, halfway through this administration, should we really expect any noticeable difference, or more of the same? One thing is for certain, we certainly need far-sighted strategists with imagination and ideas for lasting solutions to combat the growing crises on main lines feeding into London from the south.

 

The Department for Transport’s recent statement that BML2’s visionary Lewisham – Canary Wharf – Stratford connection “might just have such a case” has brought its London Phase sharply into focus within the capital. The Mirror Group’s publication The Wharf recently featured BML2, reporting: ‘Trains linking Canary Wharf direct to Gatwick and Stansted could be the next step of the area's transport network.’ Even so, a DfT spokesman told The Wharf they currently had no plans for this to happen and it would be up to the rail industry to make the case for BML2.


Meanwhile, although fully acknowledging widening public support for the “innovative and exciting” project, the DfT says this “would move the scheme into the ‘Major Project’ category, competing for funds with other cross-London tunnelling schemes.”


Well, that’s perfectly true, but BML2 is a key project for London and the South East – on both sides of the Thames – and deserves genuine Government interest and involvement. The DfT contends: “It is precisely because no affordable solution has been found that BML2 is not being taken forward by any of the railway industry bodies.”


But an “affordable solution” will have to be found – whilst nothing else comes anywhere near delivering BML2’s enormous range of benefits.


In June, the now-departed Minister, Theresa Villiers, signed-off a feeble response to Brighton and Hove MP Mike Weatherley which clearly misunderstood BML2. This said: “The London routes to which the promoters propose to connect BML2 are already full – at peak times at least. BML2 trains might be routed via East Croydon or via Tonbridge. However, in either case, they would have to replace existing trains between Croydon/Tonbridge and London.”


No they wouldn’t.


BML2 services would use the closed former main line from Tunbridge Wells via Ashurst/Oxted to London, thus relieving the Tonbridge Main Line which is Kent’s ‘major barrier to growth’ according to Network Rail. Similarly, BML2 can also bypass the notorious ‘Croydon bottleneck’ by reopening the hugely-important link through South East London to Lewisham. Back in 1900, when Redhill similarly became a congested bottleneck, the Victorians acted swiftly and decisively by building the 7-mile non-stop ‘Quarry Line’ – effectively speeding trains through to London and Brighton.


Theresa Villiers’ letter also said: “The BML2 promoters have suggested several imaginative ways to reach the outskirts of London. However, they have not been able to find a credible solution that would enable BML2 trains to reach central London. Without such a solution it would not be possible for BML2 to find a role as a relief to the Brighton Line.”


That is another misunderstanding of the project’s strategy.


Where exactly is “central London”? Is it Victoria? Is it Waterloo? Is it perhaps London Bridge, or Paddington, or Liverpool Street? Or even St Pancras International?


As we all know, commuters use numerous termini and then often have to travel miles across London by tube, bus, taxi, cycle, etc, to their place of work. However, thousands are obliged to journey many miles into “central London” in order to reach workplace destinations such as Canary Wharf.


With the arrival of Crossrail, the whole picture changes as the emphasis on first going into “central London” will alter. We would even go so far as to say that BML2’s north–south route through the eastern sector of the capital (Stratford – Canary Wharf – Lewisham) is critically important for Crossrail’s success because London’s continuing eastwards expansion and redevelopment will depend on having this ‘Thameslink 2’.


We wish both Patrick McLoughlin and Simon Burns well in their new posts, but they will need to bring with them the fresh approach, vigour and new ideas we have been promised. They need to look afresh at BML2 and understand its potential in relieving the South’s heavily-congested main lines; opening up new development opportunities in eastern London; directly linking Gatwick and Stansted with speedy air-rail shuttles; opening the way for a Thameslink 2 to cross the eastern Thames; supplementing the already busy Thameslink route through the Blackfriars knot and breaking through Network Rail’s seemingly insurmountable ‘barriers to growth’.


And yes, BML2 will need ‘Major Project’ funding – but are not major infrastructure projects precisely what the Government is saying we require to build our way out of the deep recession we’re in and to “kick-start” UK economic growth?